Milken Institute School of Public Health: Celebrating 25 Years of Advancing Public Health

School kicks off 25th anniversary celebration with a panel discussion
and luncheon for the class of 2022

To celebrate the start of its 25th anniversary year, the Milken Institute School of Public Health hosted a luncheon followed by a panel discussion for newly minted graduates, proud parents and faculty members on May 13. The lively discussion that ensued looked at not just the past 25 years of advancing public health at GW, but at a future that will include the next generation of leaders in the field.

Lynn Goldman, the Michael and Lori Milken Dean of the Milken Institute SPH, welcomed those attending the event, noting that in 1997 there was no school of public health in the nation’s capital. “Today, the Milken Institute SPH is ranked the 11th best school of public health in the nation and the number one Masters of Public Health online.”

She went on to remember some of the leaders who had helped create the new school of public health in 1997, and to add that the school has grown tremendously in the past quarter century now recruiting some of the best and brightest students from around the world.

“In these short 25 years, more than 13,000 graduates of Milken Institute SPH have become leaders, researchers, educators and practitioners — all having an impact on the health of populations around the globe,” she said.

Rex Holloway, who is a Partner and Senior Vice President of Hammes Healthcare, and James Tielsch, Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health, recalled their own introduction to public health, and how the field has changed over the years.

Tielsch noted that public health has made great progress on certain fronts, including the treatment of HIV. “It’s gone from a diagnosis of almost certain death to a chronic disease.” 

Both Tielsch and Holloway said that the new graduates would have their own challenges and opportunities to help create healthier communities both today and in the future. “This is going to be an incredible time for public health graduates,” said Holloway, who earned a Master of Health Administration from GW.

Attendees also heard from a current student, Brenda M. Trejo, a PhD candidate in the Environmental and Occupational Health Department. She said the support she has received at GW has helped hone her research, scholarship and leadership skills. 

Trejo recalled the early days of the pandemic and the crisis facing healthcare workers, including some of her own family members. At the start of the pandemic many healthcare workers lacked masks and other personal protective equipment. “There were so many healthcare workers experiencing despair,” she noted.

Trejo talked with one of her professors, David Michaels, who served as Assistant Secretary of Labor for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration from 2009 until 2017 and was the longest serving administrator in the agency’s history. They assembled a team, including students, who then put together a survey of healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

George Gray, professor and interim chair of the department of Environmental and Occupational Health, noted the school’s “remarkable strides” in the last 25 years. “Our students really do receive a top quality education,” he said, noting that students like Trejo have opportunities to look for solutions to some of the most urgent public health problems facing the world today.